Heart disease, when it comes to both danger and mortality, is serious business. It is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in every three of these deaths could have been prevented.
One of the best ways to detect and diagnose heart disease is through a stress test. By putting your body under stress through exercise, a doctor can determine if your heart is functioning properly. If you have a family history of heart disease or have other heart issues, a stress test is a key component of managing your vascular health.
If you think you could benefit from a stress test, come see us at The Medical Group of South Florida. Our medical team will work with you to evaluate your heart and overall health. Our multi-specialty practice offers services such as Lab & Diagnostics and Cardiology in addition to Primary Care.
Heart disease can be frightening! However, with early detection and diagnosis, our doctors are able to create a custom treatment plan that can yield great, successful returns.
Stress test basics
An exercise stress test shows how well your heart works during physical activity. Since exercise increases your heart rate, an exercise stress test can reveal problems with circulation in your heart. Almost everyone could benefit from a stress test, but they are medically recommended for people who have had previous heart problems or have a family history of heart disease.
Stress tests are most commonly used to detect the following:
- Coronary heart disease
- Heart valve disease
- Heart attack damage
- Abnormal heart rhythms, aka arrhythmia
Who should undergo stress testing
As mentioned, stress testing is one of the first diagnostic tools we turn to when we suspect there’s a problem, so it’s not necessarily a part of your regular heart exam. If you’ve been displaying certain symptoms of a problem, stress testing can help us further advance our diagnosis.
These symptoms include:
- Difficulty breathing, especially with exertion
- Feeling faint or dizzy
- Ongoing chest pain or tightness
- Heart palpitations
While stress testing plays a valuable diagnostic role, we also use it to determine safe exercise levels for you and as a tool to check whether a medication or interventional therapy has improved your heart health.
Undergoing a stress test
The stress test itself is completely harmless, though you should be prepared for a little exercise. To get started, we outfit you with electrodes, a blood pressure cuff, and a breathing tube (only in some cases) and record your resting heart rate and breathing rate, as well as your blood pressure. We also record your heart’s electrical activity at different points during your stress test.
- Once set up, you slowly begin walking or pedaling, and you continue to ramp up your level of exertion until you reach your limits.
- At this point, we slow it down again and continue recording your vitals as they return to resting levels. And that’s all there is to it.
- Afterward, we analyze the information we’ve gathered to determine next steps, which can often help prevent serious heart disease from developing.
If the results of your stress test are normal, no further action will be necessary. If the results are abnormal, you will likely have to undergo more tests to determine the source of the irregularities. Stress tests are the first layer of determining a diagnosis.
How to prepare
The evening and morning before your stress will be similar to those before your yearly physical. You’ll likely need to fast and avoid certain medications to ensure that measurements are accurate and not impacted by outside sources.
When getting dressed for the appointment, make sure you wear comfortable athletic clothing. Wear sneakers or shoes that will be comfortable for exercise. While you’ll probably already be fasting, It’s important to avoid coffee and any caffeine beforehand, as they may accelerate your heart rate.
If you’re concerned about your risk for heart disease or other heart conditions, a stress test is the first step. At The Medical Group of South Florida, we’re ready to help you take control of your cardiac health. Schedule an appointment online with one of our well-respected cardiologists.